National Care Standards Commission chairperson Anne Parker
believes that the government’s decision to consult on environmental
standards for care homes is premature.
Health secretary Alan Milburn announced last week that an
amended set of environmental standards would be issued for
consultation. This would see the mandatory physical standards,
including room and door sizes, downgraded to good practice
guidelines to which homes should aspire. He said homes would be
required to “spell out” whether or not they met the standards so
that people choosing a home could make informed decisions.
But Parker argued that the commission had not been given a fair
chance to demonstrate its approach to regulation. She insisted that
it had not and would not close a home solely because it did not
meet the physical standards. But she also acknowledged that some
providers would have closed their homes as a result of trying to
second guess the implementation process.
She said:”Any change of this sort will produce certainty and
clarity for providers and if that stops them selling up, then good.
If it keeps them in the market and enables them to focus on quality
of care they offer, then even better.”
Parker also questioned whether amending the environmental
standards will have much effect on the care home crisis.
“Our perception is that it is not only the standards putting
people out of business – there’s also burn out, recruitment and the
Care home associations have welcomed the consultation but warned
that the u-turn has come too late.
Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes
Association, said that she was “tinged with bitterness” for those
who had already closed their homes.
She claimed that almost every closure during the past three
years had been influenced by the standards.
Meanwhile, Mark Ellerby, managing director of Bupa care homes,
warned that the drive for higher standards must not be “kicked into
the long grass”.
“A workable, less bureaucratic, cost-effective solution must be
found,” he said.